Bell scores 28 as Heights rolls past West
Ealy Bell’s 12 for 13 night from the field on Friday exposed his only apparent weakness – shooting.
All of those shots were near the basket and most were uncontested, as Ealy’s performance helped the Falcons shoot 68 percent in a 92-33 win over West. When Ealy had to step outside the lane, he made 4 of 14 free throws.
Ealy and Heights coach Joe Auer both say Bell was simply the victim of an off night. Even if that’s not the case, the past supports Bell becoming more reliable at the line, because he’s figured out how to be everything Heights needs in his previous two seasons.
Bell scored 28 points to lead four Falcons in double figures. He missed his first shot, then made 12 in a row. Bell was a role player as a sophomore, when Heights, led by Perry Ellis, won its fourth straight Class 6A championship. He has evolved into supreme talent.
“I’m just trying to be a leader this year,” Bell said. “I learned a lot from Perry and those guys. They set me up to come in this year and be a leader. I’ve been working on my game and everything, just becoming a complete player.”
Bell found a way to impact Heights’ fourth championship run by serving as a defensive stopper on a team that included three current Division I players – Ellis (Kansas), Evan Wessel (Wichita State) and Gavin Thurman (Missouri State).
In the 2012 postseason, Bell showed flashes of his potential even as Heights’ fourth option, at best. When the standout seniors departed, Bell didn’t settle into his minor role, instead becoming the go-to player on an inexperienced team that won five of its final seven to finish 12-10 last year.
“He was one of the best defensive guards in the (City) League,” Auer said. “Whoever the other team’s best perimeter player was, that was his job. Then last year, we took him out of his comfort zone and asked him to do a lot of things, and he had his highs and lows.
“This year, we feel like he’s capable of contributing in about every possible fashion in a basketball game.”
Bell remains a top defensive option, even though the Falcons usually press and everyone contributes. At 6-foot-3, he has the jumping ability to offset his height and crash the boards, as he did Friday by grabbing 10 rebounds.
And he can score. He can even shoot, he says though he hasn’t had to demonstrate that ability this season and his free throw exploits Friday indicated a growth opportunity.
“His mid-range game has improved tremendously, and he’s actually shot free throws very well going into tonight,” Auer said. “I think tonight was more of a concentration. You’re going so well scoring the ball, and it’s a hectic game, and when the game quiets down it’s tough to concentrate. His perimeter game has really improved, and he’s still a mid-range, attack-the-basket guy.”
Asked if Bell is the best player in the City League, Auer said he is “the most experienced winner” and Bell described himself as “the most complete player.” Even if he’s not the best, he feels a responsibility to play as if he is.
“I have to,” Bell said. “We have one sophomore and three juniors starting, so I have to kind of get them going. First quarter, I have to set the tone for the games.”
Heights: Hervey 3 4-4 10, Lowe 5 1-1 11, King 1 4-6 6, Bell 12 4-14 28, A. Johnson 5 0-1 10, Walbeck 2 0-0 4, Gill 4 1-3 9, Ellis 2 0-0 4, Taylor 1 0-0 2, J. Johnson 2 0-0 5, Bahner 1 1-2 3.
West: White 3 2-5 8, Reed 1 2-6 4, Money 3 0-0 7, Harris 1 3-4 6, Swinney 1 0-0 2, Brooks 3 0-0 6.